Saturday, January 5, 2008

Quotes to Assist Loose Thinking

Merkley's quotes. Yes these are actually here. Everyone has them but no one sees how important they are like Merkley does. It's trivia. But you know what? Trivia makes it, so Merkley records them.

"I can point you to some people you could talk to about getting a job," says Wm. G. Dyer to me and he's Dean of BYU's Grad. School of Business, as a good cousin would.
"Is this going down?" It was Hiram Fong U.S. Senator asking Merkley about the elevator's direction, that he was on when the door opened, in Honolulu.
"Why don't you come to Rexburg and visit?" asks cousin Sybil Ferguson founder of Diet Center.
"Enjoyed your program," writes Buddy Greco on a card after listening to a late jazz program Merkley was announcing on KSL in the early sixties and Greco's in a car crossing Wyoming in the dead of night.
"Merkley you are a very persistent fellow; you will make it; you will go places"---Nat "King" Cole
"Merkley...with every good wish"---N. Eldon Tanner in a book he gave me.
"He's a disgrace"---quip from a student who got a failing "E" grade in Merkley's 14 week acknowledged snap course on public speaking which the student, 7/8 asleep, attended 6 weeks.
"I'm a singer"--said Anita O'Day after I asked her what it is that she does.
"That was great fun riding a horse into the York Hotel...but I did"---Woody Strode who played the King of Ethiopia in the Ten Commandments, telling me at James Edwards' house in LA what it was like winning the Grey Cup for Calgary in 1948.
"Thanks for the dinner Brother Merkley,"---said Elder Verl Osmond, Donny & Marie's bro after he was a guest for dinner.
"Mind if I smoke?"---Rene LeVesque later Quebec Premier asking Merkley if he could light up in a small stuffy conference room at the Univ. of Saskatchewan.
"'It's green"-- Lowell Thomas, friend of Lawrence of Arabia & CBS commentator noting the traffic light as he and Merkley crossed N. Temple walking south on State Street in Salt Lake City
"Disc jockey huh?"---Ella Fitzgerald at the Hollywood Bowl questioning Merkley's dubious status.
"Nice to meet you"---says R. M. Nixon to Merkley after a speech in Hilo in 1960.
"'See you man," Jim Pike of the Lettermen says as Merkley leaves for a mission in Hawaii in the late '50's.
"Thank you very much," DeeDee Corradini Salt Lake City Mayor who brought the 2002 Olympics, upon hearing Merkley say she was buff.
"What do you think?" Merrill Bateman asking me to say something when I really didn't know what to say, as usual, in a committee meeting, no one knowing he'd be the next president of BYU while Steve Covey looked on snickering.
So where should we go?" Lani Kai (Lani Woodd) friend, songwriter, co-star actor with Gardner McKay in TV's "Adventures in Paradise" and Woody Strodes step-son asks Merkley as they sit in Woodd's '58 Thunderbird on Sunset Blvd. in front of the Seawitch.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Stay Loose Jack

My cousin Jack Gibb wrote a lot and lectured a lot on trust and developed a theory he called TORI. When I was young I stopped at his house in Portland on my way from LA to Calgary in a '49 Merc and had breakfast with my great aunt, his mom. And she was asking me about what I'd majored in and I told her and she said well you know Jack is in that field and he's pretty well known and he's with the Behavioral Sciences Institute in La Jolla and I'm so green and naive this was all news to me and I say "Oh," and go on eating. My aunt Ada, his mom, was the salt of the earth. Jack was a great man. His bro and my cousin too was the dean of the graduate school of management at BYU, Bill Dyer. Jack's article "Is Help Helpful?" has shaped some of my management style.
For example some of the time and you've probably run into this, you can offer help and be rejected totally. And then there are the times when you want to do it yourself and somebody appears to be butting in when they say they would like to help. Jack goes into that type of situation in his article. The piece has shown up in some textbooks and journals. But on the loose thing knowing that help can be unhelpful can make a person choose to be brutal when someone pleads with him to go up a tree to get a cat when almost everyone knows that a cat will, someday, come down on its own. And there are a ton more situations that don't require someone to go hairbrain nuts just because an event is occurring, that, in the mind of the panicky, may seem to need an immediate remedy. Perhaps it may need no help at all. Other than listening to the person's problem and going Hmm, hmm, so the cat's up the tree. I wonder if you've thought about opening a can of sardines and placing it at the foot of the tree. Hmm.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Steve Covey Stays Loose

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Declaration of Independence gives us clues as to how difficult it is to stay loose. It says that "All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."--July 4th, 1776
Here's how I was introduced to an academic approach to the attitude of being relaxed. Many years ago, I was in a college class in human relations. The subject matter was about the relationships of people with one another in organizations. The course was taught by Stephen R. Covey, an assistant professor at that time, and who later became a well-known public speaker and writer.
During the time the class was underway, the story was told a number of times about an old teacher long ago who once taught a class in human relations. It was explained how this ancient teacher would emphasize the critical need to stay flexible. The story goes that there was once a student who wanted to remember what the old teacher was teaching about human relations. While the old teacher was teaching, the student would write in his notes the things that the teacher was saying. The student went over the material persistently in order to know it better for when the final exam came around.
As the ancient professor's class rolled on, the student with the notebook wondered if he could remember the notes which he had written. Then the final exam was announced. To help himself prepare for the exam, the student cut his jottings to one page. The night before the exam he was still concerned about his recall abilities so he trimmed his notes to a half page. The next morning with exam angst gripping him, he reduced his notes further to a paragraph. But again this was not manageable enough so he condensed everything to one sentence. Five minutes before the exam was to start he took a big step. He summed up the whole course and boiled it down to two words which he figured he could remember once he began responding to the test questions in the exam room.
The student went into the exam room knowing his time would be brief. He sat down and thoughtfully began writing his answers. On the brink of writing something, he stopped in his tracks. He had forgotten the words. The words were the essence of the course that the ancient professor had taught incessantly. They had everything to do with how we could act more loosely and effectively instead of going berserk when we don't get our own way. It was a great story told by Steve Covey. Later on in Covey's class my own exam time approached. I thought and wondered about how I could ace it. The exam came. Walking into the room, I picked up a blue test booklet, carried it to a desk, and sat down and began writing. In seconds I was done.
After approximately a six second response, two pithy words had been written. they were on paper and now possessed a life of their own. It was written. Once in a while, decades later, people who had heard about this gutsy risk, ask about what it takes to pull something off like that. They want to know how I could be so cool in writing a two word final. Keep in mind that when you take an exam, see if you can arrange it so you can take it in a form more to your liking.
In the exam room itself, out of respect for the other 25 students allotted a three hour span in which to struggle over tricky questions on a worrisome final, the author stayed three more minutes. Having paused in that fashion in order to reflect to myself how ridiculously easy that little leadership caper had been, I stood up and walked to the front of the class. I placed the exam, without any fanfare, on the front table at a spot designated for placing the completed exams. The other students were amazed. Of course they were amazed. They were conventional students using conventional, typical minds to write out answers. It was such a fast finish. How can you take an exam that fast. They couldn't figure it. They murmured.
If you had understood the basic Covey, with an appreciation of what the uncomplicated S. R. Covey actually was, and what had been professed daily, and you had responded on the final in a manner absolutely consistent with what he was professing during the entire course, and then doing this on the exam, then my friends, then, it is precisely true, in fact, without a doubt, that if you had written "stay loose," on the first right hand page and been done with it, then, bam, like John Madden exults, you would have grasped the pith of the class in a tidy two word final.
Isn't that better than a long drawn-out effort on a warm, spring morning holed up in a classroom. It surely is. And I knew it, and I knew the others knew it. I had no intention of being in that classroom as one of the herd going about writing convoluted, laborious sentences in a blue book. Certainly not when Prof. S. Richards Covey with his Harvard MBA was more or less continually playing on a theme of "stay loose" for an entire semester.
What does it take, then, a super-human genius to get the meaning behind all that. Stay loose, amigo, means stay loose. When you're faced with what shapes up as a stressful scenario there are always methods to lessen the load for you. How you do it is to put stay loose into practice. It involves a risky route to final exam completion. I did it and departed. I was itching to get into the sunshine and into the university's memorable history books, here called the Annals Of Risk Taking Accomplished, or also known as AORTA.
You can imagine how good it was walking out. Think how I must have, in fact, been quietly relieved inside, having shucked off a load of weight with the flourish of a cheap pen. But it was not easy to pull off. The naive might think it could be done easily. In the early stages of deciding to write just two small itty-bitty words on a final exam there was yes, you guessed it, r over wondering if it could be pulled off. Questions of self doubt came up. The big one was "should I?"
Had it ever been done before? Who knew the answer to that? No one the author knew in his small circle of friends. Could it really be pulled off? In the early stages of figuring it out who would know about that sort of unconventional test-taking that you could talk to. No one knew anything like that. Covey had appeared entertainingly creative in class and had, in many ways, according to his own accounts of how he had handled various human relations situations in the past, been operating somewhat outside routine convention.
Covey was quite capable of trying a lot of things other people wouldn't try. So whether or not to actually go ahead with such an outlandish cut-short written answer in a final exam was the question, even if risk-taker S. Covey happened to be the teacher. It was known in my mind well in advance of the test, that the two word answer would be in response to any and all questions the class must answer, not just one, or some of the questions. All questions. The two-word answer was all of it.
Essentially no matter what Covey asked then, the words "stay loose," would be what I was going to write down. The two word answer had become, in my mind, a general response to anything and everything that could come my way as a way of putting me to the test. In the decades to come as a matter of how the two word answer took on a handy utility, the words "stay loose," cropped up regularly as a continuing general response to any manner of discombobulation. "Stay Loose" even became a parting shot. So in that sense, stay loose as an answer to a global set of problems, was a relationship position. It was a way of looking at particular things and all things. At the least it was that day in that exam room. It was a method of responding, generalizeable to an unknown number of challenges.
And with respect to the test, I had no intention to reveal to anyone, anything about my plan or precisely how I was going to write the final exam. In the days immediately before the writing of the examination I met casually from time to time, briefly in passing, with other fellow students walking across the college campus who wondered about the coming test and who vainly tried to predict what sort of exam it was going to be.
Various hypothetical exam scenarios were laid out by students who figured
they could out-figure the professor, but not a word was breathed by me about how truncated I had decided my own final test was going to be. The whole escapade was top secret.
You can imagine that if the plan had ever been suggested, even in confidence to another student, that this two word tactic was an easy way to walk into the exam room and write it, the word would be out. You can further figure that Prof. S. R. Covey could very well at that point come out with a bulletin board warning like "All students will take the allotted three hours and write a minimum of 1500 words..." and so on, etc. So the whole effort would not have worked. It definitely would not have been unique and it would have failed. Tactics told about beforehand lose their novelty and power to surprise. I got a nearly top grade out of that final and a nearly top grade out of the class.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Woody Allen Stay Loose Leadership

Today we take a look at a type of leadership that smacks of totally Stay Loose. It was written on Tuesday, February 08, 2005

THE WOODY ALLEN WAY One way of conducting your super-high, super-serious role as a top manager if you are one of those people at the pyramid's top, has a tremendous lot to do with making the job one nice huge piece of cake. Do you like cake? Here is some cake for you. But what shall we call the ultra-easy process? Catchy titles for this manner of leading out can be very elusive indeed. Management theorists have given various names to different theories on how leaders can go about leading. You've probably heard of Theory X and maybe you've come across Theory Y. There's also general management and there's close supervision. But how about perhaps for now let's just call this new piece of cake, easy management method, something simple. How about Woody Allen Management. It's easy enough. In other words WAM.
The author has studied management for the better part of the 20th century. He probably knows more about this type of laid-back leadership than anyone, most anyone, anyway, just from looking around and seeing how people knock themselves out trying to get stuff done. But consider this. In looking at hot-stuff leadership traits, the notion hits you like a freight train that Woody Allen is probably the one icon who really has a handle on leadership. At least he certainly demonstrates it. Some would unknowingly wonder how so. He has it besides understanding it. He is easily above and beyond what the graduate schools of management can ever teach anyone, anywhere, anytime. The MBA programs the world over cannot ever come close to touching WAM--Woody Allen Management.
Perhaps you have seen Woody's wide-eyed alertness. He uses it as he deals with an almost incomprehensible array of babbling fans. He looks with amazement at the world which is, in a nutshell, the great kernel of truth about what WAM is all about. It's the ingenuous pith of the recipe. It's the guileless blueprint for giving others something to do. It's the WAM approach to handling management problems. It is pure innocence in the face. Appear untainted like Woody and you'll be showing off WAM. Look like you have a full truck load of self-confidence. Innocence is power. Simplicity is genius as in Woody. You would not want to evince guilt now would you. Guilt, for the most part, looks totally suspicious. Appear unpolluted and come off as stainless. Woody Allen Management is a type of posturing that demonstrates totally clearly to anyone wanting to really understand this effective management style, that to be an effective leader, a popular one, and well-liked besides, the leader absolutely must show that he cannot believe what he is hearing when some stupid flunky gives him a load of organizational gobbledygook. The WAM leader says in retort, "Gee, I'm amazed that I'm so uninformed about what you're telling me." In other words there's no fear in admitting to being ignorant. But as a matter of fact, a WAM leader would follow quickly up on his guileless attitude with the one that says right out that he is absolutely not astounded in the least at hearing anything he hears from a greenhorn toady. Including any of the crap he has just heard. Since he is leader, then it can surely only follow that everything is absolutely quite under complete control even when he is daily presented with the absurd. What he does do is leave things alone while keeping the eyes wide open taking in everything that's going on.
Late Show
Take a step back to David Letterman's "Late Show" of February 1st 1994. It is at the 43 minute mark. Julie Kavner is Dave's guest. They are thoughtfully and earnestly discussing Woody Allen. Dave says something to the effect that Woody is almost kind of a non director in that everything sort of goes along and that's fine. Julie says something like and he'll let you know if he doesn't like it or if it's not working and then he'll direct you but other than that he leaves you alone. Bravo. Do you know that with that sort of slack, free approach of leaving alone, almost all effective director behavior, meaning competent leader behavior, is an effortless behavior to portray. Director behavior, we see, has as much power inherent in it as being presidential, since when you are either director, or president, or leader,you are in that wonderful upper spot to guide people around.
In Woody Allen Management then, as you direct others, you merely appear to be open and accepting of others. You illustrate that you are unfettered, unregulated and unrestricted. That is how you do it. Keep the "eyes wide open" tactic in mind. Those peepers that scan the environment, denote wonder. They say to all who see you that there is a willingness to receive information coming into your person and because of it you are unclosed and uncovered. The eyes tell of a willingness to learn and a receptivity to being taught besides. When people put pressure on you to play the phony role, that they think you should play, and how you should not do it like you want to do it, then implementing an effective come-back can help you handle it. It can deflect that ineffective pressure that people put on you to be a leader the way they want you to be leader, but which way, in fact, turns you into a certain kind of highly ineffective flop.
Amazor and Amazee
Playing the role of an effective leader and being aware of the so-called mystery which people attribute to tremendously good leadership readily suggests that you can evince amazement at their suggestions. People love that. People like to shock people. On the other end, people like being the amazee, that is, on the receiving end of bewilderment as it were, and promptly amazed by others. It feels good to be stunned. It probably feels even better to be the amazor. To reiterate, on the flip side, to also feel that incredibly, you are actually amazing someone else, feels absolutely, spectacularly startling.
"That's amazing. Did you see that guy? He was flabbergasted when I told him he oughta do it my way. And he's the president of the company. His eyes were smack open in amazement, like Woody Allen does. The CEO dude was dumbfounded." The president goes home and tells his wife at supper. "I really amazed that supervisor. He thought I was taken aback. My amazement staggered him. I just opened my peepers wide-eyed and bug-eyed. He figured I was as loose as an amazed goose, because I listened to him so raptly and was basically entirely bowled over and open and receptive to what he was saying." His wife says "well that story certainly--pass the macaroni--amazes me dear, that you could even be befuddled but bless you--please pass the green beans--for it dear, and bless Woody Allen too for being such an amazing mentor for you."
Amazed translates lightning quick into learning something new and exciting. Someone who is cock-sure smug about his job and hard pressed to be wordless you absolutely know has not, will not, cannot, ever learn anything to speak of over the long haul that would rank as amazing. But do you know why? It's because he wouldn't be LOOSE. So use the wide-eyed look when you're talking to people you've assigned jobs to who want to get you to pitch in.
"Me?" you say. "You want moi to help you?"
It works if you will only use it. People like thunderstruck people and you will have great fun looking amazed at them. It is mind-blowing how much fun there is in being amazed.
Amazingly Entertained Being baffled is one of the great secrets to being engaging. It is truly the right thing to do if we are not going to be stuck fast in constant ineffective floppiness. Amazement equals effective leadership a la Woody Allen. Take it as a new millenium truism that if you are sufficiently traumatized and/or amazing to people, then that will truly entertain them and put you into leadership territory. You call someone in another state on a cell phone, maybe even over to Hawaii from the mainland and they answer you. You say that this is amazing me calling you on this phone and I'm driving across the desert in Nevada and you're in Hawaii on a movie shoot and I'm talking to you that fast and it amazes me and they wonder about you and the elementary, common things that can amaze you. They wonder about how naive can you be, but they like you for being so amazed that you can call them and talk to them so amazingly easy compared to the forties in the last century when you had to have an operator make the connection for you then she says "go ahead please," before you could talk, and then when you talked you stood up straight leaning against a big square 'phone on a wall, shouting into it.
People in the throes of amusement will love you. They will love you deep down because you have taken the time to let them amaze you and for you to amaze them. Amaze people when you can. Like ordering at the counter in a juice store one day, the author did what he does a lot and that's using different names when ordering, because what difference does it make, they are not entering what name you use in a huge data bank, are they, like they would if they had to know who you really, really are. All they want is a way of calling you when your juice is ready. So having used DeCaprio and Redford and other interesting unknown names, the writer thought that he would use Stefani and the girl taking the order asked him if he was related to her and he said that he was and she said something like are you her Dad or something and he said sure and told her how his son hangs out with a rock group called No Doubt and she was amazed that she would be that close to the degree that she was, to this Stefani entity whose No Doubt group's album CD she had just bought the day before. So she was really amazed that some old fart would breeze in and act like he was really connected.
It was amazing to her and that's what made the whole juice-imbibing incident gratifying not only to her but to the author for having a little fun with amazing names and gracefully doing it. But then he told her that he wasn't really her dad, but that he was only his son's dad and that it was he who hung out with her and her famous San Diego Super Bowl performing and Grammy-winning group.
Like has been said if you have been openly amazed and/or deliberately amazing in your dealings you will have shown that wonderful quality to them with your eyes wide open in a WAM-type genuine style.
In Isolation It all adds up to making it easy to be somewhat all alone 'way up there as the top person. But now we come to a solitary, forlorn, facet of leadership that goes hand in hand with going it alone. Not only as a leader, are you alone, but when it comes time to decide on which way to go, you have to do that alone, too. In this respect, the top spot is a challenge and demands decisiveness. In regard to this, millions of people would take total charge of things if they only could. But they do not, because someone else usually has charge of things for them. They think they cannot be in charge because they have also concluded that there is not enough entertainment in it for them to be bothered with doing it. In other words the fun factor in administering a project is basically nowhere to be seen.